The protection of farm and forest lands received a boost by the Snohomish County Council with the passage of a countywide Transfer of Development Rights program.
Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) is a market-based mechanism that promotes growth where desirable, while conserving areas important to the county’s rural economy such as farms and forests.
Through individual, voluntary transactions, development rights are transferred from privately owned farms and forests to areas that can better accommodate additional growth.
Landowners are paid for the development value of their property. They retain ownership of the land and may continue using it for farming or timber production. Developers purchasing the TDR credits use them to acquire bonuses such as increased building heights, more square footage or additional units than what would otherwise be allowed.
“This will protect valuable farm and forest lands from development pressures, conserving them for today and future generations” said Councilmember Dave Somers who sponsored the ordinance. “I’m grateful to the diverse group of stakeholders who came together to help us identify how to make this a win-win for everyone.”
Snohomish County launched a TDR pilot program in 2005 with the City of Arlington while the City of Snohomish established their own earlier this year. Both cities allow TDR credits from county farm land to be used within areas they are seeking to revitalize. The cities of Everett and Mountlake Terrace are also considering the use of similar programs.
Last year, the State of Washington adopted a regional TDR program that creates a market for development rights across Snohomish, King and Pierce counties. Cities are encouraged to participate in the regional program through the authorization of special financing tools to support growth through infrastructure investments. Ten cities in Snohomish County are eligible to participate.
“The agriculture community has long supported the approval of a countywide TDR program” said Brian Bookey, a local farmer and member of the county’s Agriculture Advisory Board. “The council has taken an important step towards protecting our remaining farmlands and to keep farmers farming.”